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25 Best Nonfiction Books Of All Time According To Michael J. Mauboussin-Psychology/Science/Business

Reading has always been one of the most profound ways to gain knowledge, broaden horizons, and explore different perspectives.

Nonfiction books, in particular, offer readers the opportunity to delve into real-world topics, from psychology and science to business and history.

With countless nonfiction titles available, it can be challenging to decide where to start.

Thankfully, Michael J. Mauboussin, a renowned author and investor, has compiled a list of recommended nonfiction books that promises to enlighten, inspire, and challenge your thinking.

Let's dive into this exceptional selection of books.

Affiliate Disclaimer: This post features Amazon affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links.

In this thought-provoking work, Daniel Pink challenges the conventional notion of sales as a domain reserved for slick salespeople. He presents a compelling case that we're all engaged in selling, whether it's products, services, or ideas. Pink delves into the psychology of persuasion, revealing the principles and strategies that underlie successful persuasion and influence in today's information-rich world.

“To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources—not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end.”― Daniel H. Pink, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others

Steven Pinker's magnum opus is a tour de force of rational thinking and data-driven optimism. He meticulously makes the case that human civilization is on an upward trajectory, thanks to the enlightenment values of reason, science, and humanism. Pinker's book offers a ray of hope in a world often dominated by negativity and demonstrates the power of human intellect in driving progress.

“Left-wing and right-wing political ideologies have themselves become secular religions, providing people with a community of like-minded brethren, a catechism of sacred beliefs, a well-populated demonology, and a beatific confidence in the righteousness of their cause.”― Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

Drawing on their experiences as Navy SEALs, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin present a compelling leadership philosophy in "Extreme Ownership." They argue that true leadership is about taking complete responsibility for outcomes, both good and bad. The book provides practical lessons in leadership and teamwork that transcend the battlefield and can be applied to various aspects of life.

“Discipline equals freedom.”― Jocko Willink, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

In this eye-opening exploration of the science of sleep, Matthew Walker reveals the profound impact that sleep has on our physical and mental well-being. He delves into the mechanisms behind sleep's role in memory consolidation, emotional regulation, and overall health. Walker also offers actionable insights on improving sleep quality and understanding the consequences of sleep deprivation.

“Practice does not make perfect. It is practice, followed by a night of sleep, that leads to perfection.”― Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams

"The Outsiders" profiles eight unconventional CEOs who defied conventional wisdom and achieved exceptional results for their companies and shareholders. William Thorndike's deep analysis showcases the value of capital allocation, long-term thinking, and a focus on shareholder value creation, making this a must-read for investors and business leaders.

“The business of business is a lot of little decisions every day mixed up with a few big decisions.”― William N. Thorndike, The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success

In a world filled with uncertainty, Philip Tetlock introduces readers to "superforecasters"—individuals with a remarkable ability to make accurate predictions about future events. "Superforecasting" explores the cognitive processes, thinking habits, and the application of Bayesian reasoning that set these individuals apart, providing valuable insights into the art and science of prediction.

“If you don’t get this elementary, but mildly unnatural, mathematics of elementary probability into your repertoire, then you go through a long life like a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.”― Charles T. Munger, Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction

Professional poker player Annie Duke brings her expertise in decision-making under uncertainty to the forefront in "Thinking In Bets." She explores the psychology of decision-making, emphasizing the importance of thinking probabilistically and embracing uncertainty. Duke's book offers practical advice on making better decisions in both professional and personal contexts.

“What makes a decision great is not that it has a great outcome. A great decision is the result of a good process, and that process must include an attempt to accurately represent our own state of knowledge. That state of knowledge, in turn, is some variation of “I’m not sure.”― Annie Duke, Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts

Ed Catmull, the co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, offers readers an inside look at the creative culture that made Pixar a powerhouse in the world of animation. "Creativity, Inc." explores the principles of fostering creativity, managing a creative team, and overcoming challenges in the creative process. Catmull's insights are invaluable for leaders in any field striving to nurture innovation.

“Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.”― Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

In a groundbreaking exploration of the resurgence of psychedelic research, Michael Pollan delves into the history, science, and personal experiences of psychedelic substances. "How to Change Your Mind" shines a light on the potential of these compounds for personal transformation, healing, and understanding the nature of consciousness.

“Our task in life consists precisely in a form of letting go of fear and expectations, an attempt to purely give oneself to the impact of the present.”― Michael Pollan, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence

Adam Grant's "Give and Take" explores the dynamics of reciprocity in our interactions with others. He categorizes people into three groups: givers, takers, and matchers, and makes a compelling case that being a giver—generous and selfless—can lead to long-term success and fulfillment in both personal and professional life.

“As Samuel Johnson purportedly wrote, “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”― Adam M. Grant, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success

"Billion Dollar Whale" is a gripping exposé of one of the most audacious financial frauds in history. Tom Wright and Bradley Hope meticulously detail the rise and fall of Jho Low, a young Malaysian financier who orchestrated the massive 1MDB scandal. The book unravels the intricate web of deception, lavish spending, and high-stakes international intrigue surrounding this shocking financial crime.

“Steal a little and they throw you in jail Steal a lot and they make you king. —Bob Dylan,”― Bradley Hope, Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World

Neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky takes readers on a journey into the complexities of human behavior. "Behave" explores the interplay of biology, culture, and environment in shaping our actions, shedding light on the underlying neurological and psychological mechanisms that drive both virtuous and destructive behaviors.

“You don’t have to choose between being scientific and being compassionate.”― Robert M. Sapolsky, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

Geneticist David Reich offers a fascinating genetic history of humanity in "Who We Are and How We Got Here." He unravels the story of human migrations, interbreeding events, and the impact of ancient populations on our modern genetic makeup. The book provides a deep understanding of our shared ancestry and diversity.

“There was never a single trunk population in the human past. It has been mixtures all the way down.”― David Reich, Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past

Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt explore the challenges facing today's generation of young adults in "The Coddling of the American Mind." They investigate how certain cultural trends and parenting practices may be contributing to the rise of emotional fragility and anxiety. The book offers insights on promoting resilience and mental well-being.

“A culture that allows the concept of “safety” to creep so far that it equates emotional discomfort with physical danger is a culture that encourages people to systematically protect one another from the very experiences embedded in daily life that they need in order to become strong and healthy.”― Greg Lukianoff, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure

"Bad Blood" is a gripping investigative account of the meteoric rise and spectacular fall of Theranos, the healthcare startup led by Elizabeth Holmes. John Carreyrou uncovers the shocking deception, corporate misconduct, and ethical breaches that led to the unraveling of Theranos and its founder's credibility.

“When the officer asked what he’d taken, Sunny blurted out in his accented English, “He stole property in his mind.”― John Carreyrou, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

In "Range," David Epstein challenges the notion that specialization is always the path to success. Drawing on compelling stories and extensive research, he argues that having a diverse range of experiences and skills can be a significant advantage in an increasingly complex and interconnected world.

“You have people walking around with all the knowledge of humanity on their phone, but they have no idea how to integrate it. We don’t train people in thinking or reasoning.”― David Epstein, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

Mathematician Steven Strogatz provides a captivating exploration of the profound impact of calculus on our understanding of the universe. "Infinite Powers" demystifies complex mathematical concepts and demonstrates their relevance to everyday life, from understanding the motion of celestial bodies to optimizing everyday decisions.

“To grasp how different a million is from a billion, think about it like this: A million seconds is a little under two weeks; a billion seconds is about thirty-two years.”― Steven H. Strogatz, Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe

In "Pre-Suasion," Robert Cialdini delves into the art of persuasion, focusing on the critical moments before making an influence attempt. By exploring how to effectively frame conversations and set the stage, Cialdini offers valuable insights into how these techniques can significantly increase the likelihood of successful persuasion. This book is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in mastering the nuances of persuasion and influence.

“people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”― Robert B. Cialdini, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade

"The Psychology of Money" by Morgan Housel is a captivating exploration of the intricate relationship between human behavior and personal finances. Housel dives deep into behavioral biases, emotional triggers, and cognitive errors that frequently lead to financial mistakes. Through a series of engaging narratives and real-life examples, he provides practical insights to help readers make more informed financial decisions, manage risk, and achieve long-term financial security.

“Money’s greatest intrinsic value—and this can’t be overstated—is its ability to give you control over your time.”― Morgan Housel, The Psychology of Money: Timeless lessons on wealth, greed, and happiness

In "Deep Survival," Laurence Gonzales goes beyond the mere exploration of survival techniques and delves into the psychology of staying alive in life-threatening situations. Drawing on gripping real-life stories and extensive research, Gonzales uncovers the traits, mindsets, and decision-making strategies that can mean the difference between life and death. This book provides a profound understanding of human resilience and the psychological factors that influence survival.

“Survival is the celebration of choosing life over death. We know we're going to die. We all die. But survival is saying: perhaps not today. In that sense, survivors don't defeat death, they come to terms with it.”― Laurence Gonzales, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why

Nobel laureate Richard Thaler introduces readers to the captivating world of behavioral economics in "Misbehaving." He challenges traditional economic assumptions and explores how human irrationality and biases shape economic choices. Thaler's work offers not only a fascinating glimpse into the quirks of human behavior but also practical strategies to improve decision-making, whether in personal finance or public policy.

“Psychologists tell us that in order to learn from experience, two ingredients are necessary: frequent practice and immediate feedback.”― Richard H Thaler, Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioural Economics

"I Contain Multitudes" by Ed Yong takes readers on a mesmerizing journey into the microscopic world within our bodies. Yong explores the intricate ecosystems of microorganisms that coexist with us, influencing our health, immunity, and overall well-being. Through vivid storytelling and scientific insights, he reveals the astonishing diversity and interconnectedness of these microscopic communities, offering fresh perspectives on our relationship with the microbial world and its profound implications for our understanding of health and disease.

“Within 24 hours of moving into a new place we overwrite it with our own microbes, turning it into a reflection of ourselves.”― Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life

"Killers of the Flower Moon" is a meticulously researched account of a series of shocking murders in Osage County, Oklahoma, during the early 20th century. David Grann uncovers the dark conspiracy, corruption, and racism that allowed these crimes against the wealthy Osage Indians to persist. Through a gripping narrative, Grann sheds light on a little-known chapter of American history, revealing the harrowing details of a systematic and sinister plot.

“History is a merciless judge. It lays bare our tragic blunders and foolish missteps and exposes our most intimate secrets, wielding the power of hindsight like an arrogant detective who seems to know the end of the mystery from the outset.”― David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon: Oil, Money, Murder and the Birth of the FBI

Bethany McLean's "The Smartest Guys In The Room" provides a detailed and damning account of the rise and fall of Enron, one of the most notorious corporate scandals in history. She meticulously examines corporate hubris, financial manipulation, and ethical lapses that led to the company's spectacular collapse. McLean's narrative serves as a cautionary tale, emphasizing the importance of transparency, ethical leadership, and accountability in the corporate world.

“Never, ever do the easy wrong instead of the harder right.”― Bethany McLean, The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron

In "On The Move," the celebrated neurologist Oliver Sacks shares an intimate and introspective memoir of his extraordinary life journey. Through personal anecdotes and professional insights, Sacks takes readers on a profound exploration of his passions, challenges, and encounters with the human condition. This memoir is a testament to the resilience and boundless curiosity that defined Sacks's life and work, offering readers a deeper understanding of the remarkable individual behind the scientific contributions.

“There are no rules; there is no prescribed path of recovery; every patient must discover or create his own motor and perceptual patterns, his own solutions to the challenges that face him; and it is the function of a sensitive therapist to help him in this.”― Oliver Sacks, On the Move: A Life


If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out more similar list on my on my blog —

These 25 nonfiction books, carefully curated by Michael J. Mauboussin, offer a diverse range of knowledge and perspectives that will engage, inform, and inspire readers for generations to come.

Whether you're interested in business, science, psychology, or history, this list has something for everyone.

So, pick up one of these titles and embark on a journey of enlightenment and discovery.


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